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The Most and Least Popular Countries in Film and Television

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Miscellaneous | May 8, 2014 |


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A common complaint of the American dominance of world media, especially entertainment, is that American audiences have little use for anything that happens in foreign countries, and so the entertainment we produce basically pretends that it doesn’t exist. There’s some logic to it. It’s only natural that most stories produced by a particular country are located in that particular country. But logic is not the same as fact, so I thought today we could look at just how many movies and television episodes actually deal with non-American countries. So let’s look at some statistics.*

What I’ve done is to take a list of every country in the world except for the United States, and searched IMDB’s plot summary field for that country’s name. And by “every country” I mean the 170 listed in the standard Correlates of War database, and by “plot summary” I mean the little paragraph that describes the film or episode of television. I left out the United States because, well, that’s the point.

Who are our top twenty?

1France2967
2India2794
3Mexico2790
4Canada2132
5Germany2120
6China2047
7Australia1933
8Japan1769
9Italy1704
10Spain1303
11Russia1238
12Iraq1162
13Vietnam1156
14Israel973
15Ireland948
16Brazil939
17Jordan935
18Georgia892
19Afghanistan813
20Turkey753

Some of this is just a consequence of there being large film industries in particular countries, with enough of a western impact that their titles end up in IMDB. And then some of them are a bit misleading once you poke into the results because “Georgia” is returning a bunch of stuff to do with the American state, and “Turkey” is largely television episodes about Thanksgiving. And then there is the American predilection with making movies about countries we fight wars in (Iraq, Vietnam, Afghanistan).

So what are the least represented countries? Well, one interesting result is that not a single country came back with zero results, so there is something for everyone. But here are the bottom twenty:

151Seychelles17
152Bahrain15
153Togo14
154Cape Verde13
155Eritrea13
156Gambia13
157Tajikistan13
158Grenada12
159Swaziland11
160Gabon10
161Liechtenstein10
162Lesotho9
163San Marino8
164Andorra6
165Equatorial Guinea6
166Comoros5
167Turkmenistan5
168Brunei4
169Djibouti4
170Guinea-Bissau4

If you want to duplicate what I’ve done, or see the exact episodes and films that matched countries, just go here and type in the country name into that first box and hit enter. For example, here are the search results for Saudi Arabia.

Your challenge in this comment thread? Take one of those bottom twenty countries, those little (or not so little for that matter) ignored countries, go search for them on Wikipedia or your choice of websites, books, or wizened old professors, and pitch us a movie or television episode that should be set there.

* Note: I do not claim that these findings even remotely hold up to statistical or scientific rigor. Any attempt to hold them up to such standards will be roundly ridiculed.

Header image via Bored Panda

Steven Lloyd Wilson is a hopeless romantic and the last scion of Norse warriors and the forbidden elder gods. His novel, ramblings, and assorted fictions coalesce at www.burningviolin.com. You can email him here and order his novel here.


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